|Bruins and Lightning taking different approaches on day of Game 7||05.27.11 at 1:33 pm ET|
There are plenty of ways a team could treat a game of Friday night’s magnitude, and the Bruins and Lightning are taking two different approaches. Claude Julien said on Thursday that he wanted his players to be excited and he wanted them to fully realize the opportunity that was in front of them. He reiterated that Friday morning.
“Our guys just have to enjoy this whole process,” Julien said. “As I mentioned yesterday, there’s 27 teams right now that would love to have the opportunity that we have in the playoffs right now. This is one of those days where I think if you don’t enjoy the moment, you’re wasting a pretty precious day. You take advantage of it today, you get ready, you get excited about it, you come out tonight and you leave it all out there on the ice. Simple as that. Anything less than that is a waste of a day.”
The Lightning are taking a slightly different approach. Guy Boucher is trying to rein in his team’s emotions and not get caught up in the magnitude of the game.
“I think that’s the challenge is to be able to control these emotions,” Boucher said. “We didn’t want our players or ourselves playing the game last night or this morning or this afternoon. It’s our job to make sure that we stay focused on what we’ve got to to do, not the hype of everything else that this game means.”
It will be interesting to see if one approach pays off more than the other, or if either approach even has an effect on the game. Players often say that everything goes out the window once you get into the flow of the game anyway, so it’s entirely possible that neither team’s game-day mindset will mean anything once the puck is dropped.
|Claude Julien: ‘Our team needs to be positive’||05.27.11 at 12:58 pm ET|
There were plenty of negatives for the Bruins in their Game 6 loss. From a team perspective, giving up three power-play goals obviously stands out. And from an individual perspective, you would have to start with Johnny Boychuk, who was on the ice for all five of the Lightning’s goal.
But with Game 7 mere hours away now, Claude Julien isn’t dwelling on any of the negatives.
“This is Game 7, and sorry not to answer your question, but this is not a day or a time for me to question,” Julien said when asked about Boychuk. “I’m going to [abstain] from doing that today because I think our team needs to be positive, and we believe in everybody in our hockey club. So we’re going to stick with that motto for today.”
-One of the positives the Bruins can take from Game 6 is the play of David Krejci. The first-line center notched the first playoff hat trick by a Bruin since Cam Neely in 1991. Julien said the coaches have been encouraging Krejci to shoot more all season, and that Wednesday night was a perfect example of why.
“David, in his mind, is a pass-first kind of player and he always looks to pass first and foremost,” Julien said. “And we’ve encouraged him to shoot more because there’s times when he’s in a real good shooting position. Marc Savard was the same way. Marc had a real good shot and a lot of times he’d look to pass instead of shooting.
“But that’s a natural thing that those guys normally do, from Adam Oates back in the day — they’re guys that that’s the strength of their game. So you don’t want them to lose that strength, but you also want them to be able to make the difference between, ‘Am I in a good shooting area or a scoring area here, where I should take the shot versus passing?’ ”
-One guy Julien (and B’s fans) would still like to see shoot more is Tomas Kaberle. The veteran defenseman had one of his best games of the playoffs Wednesday night, assisting on two goals, registering a plus-1 rating and logging 19:46 of ice time, his highest total since Game 5 against Montreal. But there were still times, especially on the power play, when he passed up what appeared to be an open shot.
“The only thing you’ve always heard about Tomas is you’d like to see him shoot the puck more,” Julien said. “And there are times on the power play where, if he has that shooting lane, with Zdeno [Chara] in front, you have to shoot. It doesn’t have to be a big shot. It can be a wrist shot, it can be anything.”
|Bruins can draw on Game 7 vs. Canadiens, but only to a certain extent||05.26.11 at 6:07 pm ET|
The Bruins have experience winning a Game 7 at home, having done so against the Canadiens in the first round. But how much can they actually draw from that come Friday night? Players say at least a little.
“We got some confidence,” David Krejci said Thursday. “We know we’ve been there before, so it’s nothing new to us. Hopefully we can use our experience to our advantage tomorrow.”
Perhaps that will be the case, but there a few flaws in the theory that the Game 7 against Montreal will give Boston any sort of an advantage Friday. First, the Bruins didn’t look nervous at all to start that game. They jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first 5:33, which is an anomaly for a team that has surrendered seven goals in the opening three minutes of games this postseason. So you can’t really make the argument that they’ll be less nervous.
Second, and more importantly, the Lightning aren’t new to this whole Game 7 thing either. They beat the Penguins on the road in Game 7 in the first round, so no one should expect them to be overwhelmed by the atmosphere and magnitude of the game.
“Obviously we have played in a Game 7, but so have they,” Chris Kelly said. “You can kind of look back and realize how you approached it, but at the end of the day, it’s two new teams, a new situation and a new experience.”
Kelly hit the nail on the head with that last line. A Game 7 in the first round is one thing. A Game 7 in the conference finals with a berth in the Stanley Cup finals on the line is another.
Claude Julien said his team realizes that and that he hopes his players are excited about it.
“Why shouldn’t we be excited? This is what playoffs is all about,” Julien said. “If you had told us at the beginning of the year that we had to win one game to go to the Stanley Cup finals, we would be excited about it. And that’s where we’re at right now.”
|Forechecking is part of Zdeno Chara’s new power-play duties||05.26.11 at 5:07 pm ET|
BEDFORD — Much has been made of the fact that the Bruins’ power play has looked better with Zdeno Chara set up in front. It has appeared to frustrate whoever the Lightning have had in net, it resulted in Chara drawing a penalty in Game 5, and it finally paid off with a goal in Game 6 when Matthias Ohlund stuck to Chara, freeing up David Krejci to tip home a pass from Nathan Horton.
Something that has gotten lost in the shuffle, though, is the job Chara has done forechecking on entries into the zone while playing forward. He has consistently either been the first to the puck or been right on the Lightning player who retrieves it.
As a defenseman — and one who doesn’t jump into the rush all that much — Chara doesn’t get too many chances to be one of the first guys in on the forecheck. He said he understands exactly what he has to do, though.
“Obviously when you’re up front, you have to get to the pucks and win the battles and races and get the puck to our guys,” Chara said Thursday. “It’s not really that big of an adjustment. You just have to time the speed going into the zone and kind of predict where the puck’s going to be.”
Once he helps the Bruins get possession, Chara knows his assignment is to park his 6-foot-9 frame right at the top of the crease.
“I try to just create some more traffic in front, some room for other guys, and do whatever I can to help the power play,” Chara said.
|Guy Boucher thinks Tim Thomas is a miracle-worker||05.24.11 at 12:45 am ET|
All series long, Lightning coach Guy Boucher has been complimentary of the Bruins, especially Tim Thomas. After Monday’s Game 5, in which Thomas stopped 33 of the 34 shots he faced, Boucher tried to explain just how difficult it is to win a game against Thomas when he’s playing his best.
“It’s extremely hard to play in this building, and to get 30-something shots and hold your opponent to 20, you should take that,” Boucher said. “But that’s not enough against this goaltender. You need more. You need miracles. He’s making miracles. We have to come up with miracles.”
The Lightning ended up outshooting the Bruins 34-20 in Game 5, including 14-4 in the first period. When asked if it was frustrating to dominate shots like that and not win the game, Boucher had an interesting response.
“We’re not frustrated. We’re expecting that,” he said. “He’s done it all year. He’s done it in the playoffs. If you don’t expect that, it’s because you got the wrong expectations.”
Boucher said the only thing his team can do is throw even more shots at Thomas.
“Good’s not good enough if you want to beat that goaltender,” he said. “At one point the shots were 30-12 or something like that, so I guess we’re going to need 55. There’s no two ways about it.”
Of course, Thomas might not be quite as invincible as Boucher makes him out to be. After all, the Lightning have scored four or more goals on him three times in this series, and it didn’t take 55 shots to do it.
The Lightning players said the biggest difference between those games and nights like Game 3 (a 31-save shutout for Thomas) and Game 5 is the quality of their shots.
“I think he saw the puck pretty good tonight,” Ryan Malone said. “It looked like it was point shots most of the time. He’s a world-class goalie. If he sees it, he’s going to stop it. It’s our job to make him not see it.”
Perhaps that would help create some of the “miracles” Boucher is looking for.
|Unlike fans, Bruins and Lightning aren’t thrilled with 11-goal game||05.18.11 at 1:49 am ET|
Savor the 11-goal thriller while you can, because it’s probably not going to happen again. The Bruins and Lightning entered this series as the top two defensive teams in the postseason. High-scoring games like Tuesday night’s Game 2 are not their preference.
“To be honest with you, it was a pond game tonight,” Lightning coach Guy Boucher said. “When you play a pond hockey game, there is a chance that it won’t turn your way. It’s your breakaway, it’s my breakaway. It’s your 2-on-1, it’s my 2-on-1. It might be exciting for the fans, but from the teams’ perspective and standpoint, it’s not how we have played.”
The Bruins were obviously happy to get the win, but coach Claude Julien acknowledged that he wasn’t particularly thrilled with how wide-open the game was, either.
“Not the way it opened up to the point that there were breakaways,” Julien said. “When two teams start the series and they are two of the best defensive teams in the playoffs, and then you see a game like this, I don’t think anybody’s happy. We want to score goals, there’s no doubt there, but the way we’ve been giving up goals is not something that we’re proud of right now.”
The Lightning players said the anomaly of a game was due in part to a breakdown of their defense-first structure. Forward Vincent Lecavalier said the Bruins did a good job using their speed to exploit those breakdowns.
“We didn’t play the way we usually do with our structure,” Lecavalier said. “I don’t want to take credit away from the Bruins. I thought they came out flying in the first and second. … Giving up five goals in that second period was tough. It seems every time we had a good chance, it would just come back. I think we just gave them a lot in the second, but they were skating. They were playing hard.”
Now the focus for both teams in the lead-up to Thursday’s Game 3 will be to get back to playing the type of defense that got them here, and to not allow as many odd-man rushes and quality scoring chances as they did Tuesday.
“Really for both teams it was a strange game,” said Bruins forward Mark Recchi. “I expect it to be much different when we both go back down there, to be the style we both usually play. It will be hard, another close one coming up, so we have a lot of work to do.”
|Lightning’s penalty kill shuts down Bruins in Game 1||05.15.11 at 2:04 am ET|
The Bruins’ power play deserves all the criticism it gets for its performance in the playoffs, but the Lightning’s penalty kill also deserves quite a bit of credit for its performance in Game 1.
The Lightning made it difficult for the Bruins’ man advantage, which went 0-for-4 in the game, to enter the zone and get set up all night long. They pressured the Bruins out high and forced them to gain entry by dumping the puck instead of sitting back and letting the B’s skate over the blue line. They also did a good job winning races to pucks and clearing the zone quickly, and they consistently got in passing and shooting lanes.
That’s not really all that surprising given the fact that the Lightning ranked eighth in the regular season on the PK at 83.8 percent. They’ve taken their game to an even higher level in the playoffs, killing off penalties at a 94.8-percent clip (55 for 58).
“I think we’ve had a good penalty kill all year long, top five for most of the year,” coach Guy Boucher said. “I think we’re following that up in the playoffs. We had a really good penalty kill in the first series and the second series. We’ve got to adjust to the other team and at the same time stay confident in what we are doing. Obviously our guys pay the price a lot and I think that’s the key to our penalty kill.”
Goalie Dwayne Roloson said there’s no one thing that has been the key to the Lightning’s successful PK, but that it’s more about attention to detail.
“Our guys have done a great job focusing and doing the little things to allow us to kill those penalties off,” Roloson said. “You know, whether it’s battles at the blue line or getting pucks down deep when we get that opportunity. So there’s no one thing. I think it’s just, for us as a team, just playing within our structure and doing the little things that we have to do to win hockey games.”
Although there might not be one specific key, the Lightning’s shot blocking is one thing that really stands out. They blocked 17 shots total in the game, with at least a handful of those coming while they were shorthanded.
“You have to block shots,” said forward Martin St. Louis. “It is a desperate time of the year. I think it is the mentality we have, blocking a lot of shots all year long and in the playoffs. … You want to get that shot and block that shot and make an attempt to block every shot so Rollie gets less work.”
As good as Tampa Bay’s penalty kill was, though, there was still a lot the Bruins’ power play could’ve done better.
“I thought our execution could certainly have been better, especially on those entries there,” said Bruins coach Claude Julien. “If we do our job properly, I think we are going to have success, but you need the execution. … You need the execution to be there and you need the killer instinct. When you have the chance, you need to bury those things. And same thing with the loose pucks, you have to be first on those and make sure you get them and not the other team. So execution, killer instinct is something that needs to be better on our power play moving forward here.”